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Mysteries (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Knut Hamsun , Sverre Lyngstad
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.79
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Mysteries (1892) is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysterious stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer-and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated in a spirit of near parody. He condemns the politics and thought of the age, brings comfort to the insulted and injured and gains the love of two women suggestive of the biblical Mary and Martha. But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of Prussic acid. The novel creates a powerful sense of Nagel's stream of thought, as he increasingly withdraws into the torture chamber of his own subconscious psyche.

Editorial Reviews Review

The main character, like the title says, is a mysterious guy. Nagel arrives in a Norwegian town with plenty of money and goodwill, and though kind of an eccentric, seems to start to fit in with the local crowd. But it's almost as if Nagel only just landed on Earth, and while he wishes to live correctly, has no idea how to do it. Published at the end of the last century, Mysteries is an existentialist novel, very strange, often very funny, often sad and largely asking the question, "Why live?"


"Mysteries is as immediate and haunting as last night's dreams (or nightmares)." --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

"Hamsun, perhaps more than any other writer, prefigured the techniques and attitudes of modernism." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

Product Details

  • File Size: 575 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic (January 1, 2001)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001R11CQW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,112 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries November 2, 2000
"Mysteries" remains amongst the handful of pure existential novels before there was such a thing; before the very word became a contrived label. Nagel arrives in town as an eccentric outsider. He does not reveal a complete and thorough past -- partly because he guiltily enjoys the shroud of mystery people pin on him -- partly because he can not come to grips with it himself. Here is a man able to intelligently articulate (whilst drunk, mind you) on the scope of man's most pressing questions of existence, but struggles repeatedly with his own conscious and interactions with people. The genius of the novel is found in that the way one reacts to Nagel invariably reveals something about you, the reader! Do you hold the wealthy intellect in contempt for not breaking free from the situations he creates? Or do you sympathize with this man and relate to his own pattern of self destruction? The answer does not come easy. There are arguments for both disgust and pity. And out of our own curious need to finalize our opinions, to decide what we really think, we read on and on unable to prevent ourselves from being shaped by this novel . "Mysteries" contains one of the most complex character studies in literature while being completely void of pretentious airs. Nagel has a great mind, but that's exactly the problem, he can't reason out the cynicism he holds for himself. One of Hamsun's underlying themes is an illustration of how the great thinkers of the world end up so tightly wrapped with pessimism that they are unable to function in society. He dispels any sense of romanticism that we commonly hold for the struggling artists, philosophers, and eccentrics of the world.
Oh, and carefully read the lines pertaining to "The Midget." The only place you might find a greater supporting cast member is in Shakespeare's canon.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shatteringly Gorgeous Story February 20, 2005
This book was the #1 hugest influence on me as a teen. I can't say enough good things about it. It's prose poetry in motion. Hamsun wrote about what nowadays we'd call a manic-depressive or bipolar man who is living on the edge of a deep, mystical Norweigan nightmare where the nights never end. A choir of a thousand voices, violin cases, apothecary smells, lifesaving medals...Johan Nilsen Nagel is the most fully-realized character of all time. This is probably literature's first paranormal, too. The Midget is unforgettable as well.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cold Wind... October 3, 2000
He is one of the great writers of the twentieth century, though his best works were written before 1900. He is one of the most influential European novelists of the last hundred years, yet he is not well known in the United States. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the most important Norwegian author since Ibsen, he is often ignored in his own country. He is Knut Hamsun -- novelist of genius...
Hamsun, in "Mysteries, Pan, and Hunger", wrote three of the greatest novels of the late nineteenth century, novels which created a new literary style and which delineated a new literary hero: the alienated loner. His work was widely admired in the first half of the twentieth century, with writers as diverse as Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Henry Miller citing Hamsun's work as being of special importance and influence. Isaac Bashevis Singer, in his essay "Knut Hamsun, Artist of Skepticism" goes so far as to claim that "the whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun." Henry Miller said of "Mysteries" that it "is closer to me than any other book I've read." The second of Hamsun's great early novels, and my personal second favorite...!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. An absolute masterpiece.... March 20, 2007
By Earnan
I honestly do not know exactly what to say about this novel, other than I am thankful I stumbled upon it.

I just finished it several minutes ago and it was one of the most fascinating, thought provoking, and mesmorizing books I have ever read. The manic main character is easily one of my favorites found throughout all of fiction. His rambling, yet calculated monologues, never cease to amaze me in what direction they end up taking the reader and the audience in the book. His inner monologues are intense in their portrayel of a highly intelligent mind alternating between exuberance and utter despair. He can analyze and attack the main theories and thinkers of the day, yet in his own life he seems incapable of curbing his self destructive and impulsive actions. Frankly, I am in awe that anyone could write a novel like this without having gone over the edge from genius to madness and back again.

I must admit many of the books "mysteries" remain very much unclear to me, though the ending (the last page) hit me like a smack in the face---I thought better of the particular character of whom much is revealed. I, after the novel sinks in a little bit, plan on rereading it and trying to decipher more out of it.

Once again I am brought back to Hamsun....brilliant and ahead of his time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more you see, the less you understand... December 15, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An eccentric stranger comes to a small Norwegian town and proceeds to shock, bewilder, and beguile its bourgeoisie inhabitants with his bizarre behavior, feverish rants, and uncompromising self-revelations.

Mysteries is, perhaps, Hamsun best novel--the fullest, most effective expression of his major preoccupation with social hypocrisy and personal honesty--a novel that illustrates, as do all Hamsun's to one extent or another, Schopenhauer's maxim that a man is only himself when alone. In Johannes Nagel, Hamsun has created a man divided against himself, as we all are, but so hyper-aware of his own inherent duplicity that his very existence is a kind of exquisite torture between opposites. He's dishonest even when he's being brutally honest, selfish even when he's selflessly giving, base even when acting nobly.

Nagel is never free of his awareness of the psychological shadow that dogs everything he thinks and does, the reaction to every action, the no to every yes. No motive--and no man--is pure; and Nagel feels compelled to point out this fact constantly in his own dealings with everyone he meets.

The things we do and think that we'd never tell a soul? Nagel blurts them right out. He has a kind of spiritual Tourette's syndrome. He pushes his worst side forward as if to dare us, as if to say, "love one side, love the other, they are both mine."

Naturally, the conventional, one-sided townsfolk, each of who keeps his or her own ugly shadow-twin carefully hidden from public view (and hidden even from themselves), don't know what to make of someone as ruthlessly self-critical as Nagel. After all, few people ever seriously consider whether "maybe it's me!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The book gives a brilliant description of on-going mental illness
I have very mixed feelings about Hamsun's "Mysteries". The book gives a brilliant description of on-going mental illness. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Egil Krokskogen
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps one needs today a good introduction.
It is beautifuly writen, but I did not understand what is the point. Perhaps one needs today a good introduction.
Published 2 months ago by Athina Cacouri
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT KNUT HAMSUN!!!!
Thought i was purchasing Knut Hamsun's Mysteries ended up with some Bible/Poetry/Play by Tony Harrison!!!!! Make sure you pay attention
Published 8 months ago by Michael Suazo
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like the title says
One of my favorite books by Hamsun. Read it and you may discover why for yourself.
There is something here for everyone.
Published 9 months ago by wavepainter
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Great book, great atmosphere that catches you from the beginning. Loved the main character and it's view of the world. May not be for everybody's taste though.
Published 21 months ago by Roxana Sterca
1.0 out of 5 stars Non- sense.
It's a mystery to me why this book has such a high rating. I bailed out about half way through it. It really made no sense to me at all. Read more
Published on November 25, 2011 by J. V. White
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle preview is NO preview
NOTE: My rating of this book is only a rating of the Kindle preview.

This novel is the selection for a book club I belong to. Read more
Published on August 16, 2011 by kayemmdee
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't know what to say about this novel...
It is one of the most beguiling and confusing novels ever written.

It is not a novel for everyone, but for those of a certain mindset it clicks like a key in a lock, so... Read more
Published on November 15, 2010 by M. Leduc
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, Nagel!
This book is Hamsun's masterpiece. A stranger suddenly appears in a small town and performed a number of extraordinary things. His name is Jon Nilsen Nagel. Read more
Published on July 24, 2010 by Shogo Onoe
4.0 out of 5 stars The mysteries of life
Mysteries tells the story Johan Nagel, a young man who mysteriously appears in a small coastal Norwegian town, unsettles it with his bizarre behavior, and then disappears just as... Read more
Published on June 13, 2010 by P. J. Owen
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